Camp Bestival 2009

Posted on July 29, 2009

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Voted festival of the year when it first surfaced in 2008, Camp Bestival has a tough act to follow in the form of its big brother, Bestival. But on the basis of this second edition, it should be around for a while. Yes, Camp Bestival is a family festival. But that doesn’t really describe what Camp Bestival is all about. There are kids, yes, loads of them. And plenty of stuff for kids to do. But for those who haven’t yet experienced the delights of having their lives ruined by a sprog or two, this festival offers plenty by way of fun.

First of all, thankfully, non-families don’t have to camp with the families. There is a handily positioned campsite for those without little ones, right next to a bar and the entrance to the arena. There are also plenty of other people looking to enjoy a relatively child-free weekend.

The weather held, for the most part, and the village of Lulworth, complete with castle, proved a perfect setting for a myriad collection of acts. Mumford & Sons (***) opened the weekend with their innovative brand folk, the banjos and mandolins nicely compatible with the early slot, warm sunshine and slightly mellow crowd. VV Brown (**) followed. Her more proactive style enlivened the crowd, though her stage presence could only go so far in hiding the fact that the majority of her songs were no more than filler material. Hayseed Dixie (****) might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but their raucous set, featuring countrified versions of classic AC/DC and Aerosmith songs, warmed the by now jovial crowd as the sun begun to fade. Florence & The Machine (****), unsurprisingly, were the highlight of the day, with Florence Welch and her band rattling out hits from their successful debut album ‘Lungs’. The crowd revelled in being asked to sing along to the likes of ‘Rabbit Heart’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over’, and were thrilled almost as much as festival security were terrified when she climbed the scaffolding of the main stage to belt out ‘Kiss With A Fist’ dressed in a flowing white wedding dress. Frankie Boyle (****) threatened to ruin his show in front of a packed Big Top tent by recycling old gags from his appearances in Mock The Week but recovered to have those that stayed beyond the first twenty minutes in stitches, at his offensive best when responding to catcalls from the crowd. Then there was just time to catch a few seconds of Kid Creole (***) and his stunning coconuts before stumbling to the Bollywood tent to party into the night.

Saturday got off to a calm start, with Alela Diane (***) soothing several hangovers but failing to entertain the children before we crammed into the Big Top for a reminder of our teenage years from Goldie Lookin’ Chain (***). Old favourites like ‘Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do’ and ‘Your Mother’s Got A Penis’ went down a storm with the crowd, though the Welshmen didn’t make much of an effort to tone down the expletives for the sake of the children, many of whom were perched on the shoulders of disapproving parents punching the air. Frank Turner (****) continued the good mood with his usual good humour and infectious songs, before proceedings took a mellow turn. Laura Marling (****) enthralled a surprisingly but welcomingly small audience though those that made the effort to see the much-tipped Bon Iver (**) will have been disappointed by a lackrustre set. Phoenix (*****) stoood out as the highlight for the weekend, with the less-known songs from most recent album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix drawing the same reaction from the crowd as older ones such as ‘Consolation Prizes’ and ‘Run Run Run’. It was a set that truly cemented Phoenix’s status as one of the bands of the moment. With such a tough act to follow, one could have forgiven PJ Harvey (**) for failing to compare, but in what we were regularly informed was her only UK show of the year she turned in a self-indulgent performance that left even her die-hard fans cold. DJ sets from Erol Alkan and Annie Mac kept the adults awake while the children dreamed sweet dreams.

Golden Silvers (***) provided a lively start to the final day, though the wind meant the acoustics were not ideal. Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip (*****) were another act who were less than child friendly, but the good humour, lively beats and touchingly observational lyrics of the hip-hop duo made them one of the best acts of the weekend. They finished suitably early for those of us with more discerning muscial tastes to retreat to the furthest bar to avoid Will Young, whose appearance at least meant that for 45 minutes the rest of the site was largely devoid of kids. Roots Manuva (**) was much talked about before his set but quickly forgotten once it was over, though a positive and endearingly naive set from Marina & The Diamonds (****) hinted at bigger things to come for Marina Diamandis. Micachu and the Shapes (***) were an interesting but slightly confusing warm-up to the thrilling weirdness of Wild Beasts (****), with songs from their album ‘Limbo Panto’ delighting a crowd that one suspected had hitherto been ignorant of their existence.

On the down side, Camp Bestival is a little overpopulated with children and less geared towards raucous late night activities than most festivals. But small enough to walk across in a few minutes, and with a brilliant setting and some innovative and exciting new acts, it certainly provides a different festival experience, but one that is nevertheless very enjoyable.

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Posted in: Experience, Music